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Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act V, Scene 5

Cymbeline’s tent.


[Enter CYMBELINE, BELARIUS, GUIDERIUS, ARVIRAGUS,] [p]PISANIO, Lords, Officers, and Attendants]

  • Cymbeline. Stand by my side, you whom the gods have made 3365
    Preservers of my throne. Woe is my heart
    That the poor soldier that so richly fought,
    Whose rags shamed gilded arms, whose naked breast
    Stepp'd before larges of proof, cannot be found:
    He shall be happy that can find him, if 3370
    Our grace can make him so.
  • Belarius. I never saw
    Such noble fury in so poor a thing;
    Such precious deeds in one that promises nought
    But beggary and poor looks. 3375
  • Pisanio. He hath been search'd among the dead and living,
    But no trace of him.
  • Cymbeline. To my grief, I am
    The heir of his reward; 3380
    which I will add
    To you, the liver, heart and brain of Britain,
    By whom I grant she lives. 'Tis now the time
    To ask of whence you are. Report it. 3385
  • Belarius. Sir,
    In Cambria are we born, and gentlemen:
    Further to boast were neither true nor modest,
    Unless I add, we are honest.
  • Cymbeline. Bow your knees. 3390
    Arise my knights o' the battle: I create you
    Companions to our person and will fit you
    With dignities becoming your estates.
    [Enter CORNELIUS and Ladies]
    There's business in these faces. Why so sadly 3395
    Greet you our victory? you look like Romans,
    And not o' the court of Britain.
  • Cornelius. Hail, great king!
    To sour your happiness, I must report
    The queen is dead. 3400
  • Cymbeline. Who worse than a physician
    Would this report become? But I consider,
    By medicine life may be prolong'd, yet death
    Will seize the doctor too. How ended she?
  • Cornelius. With horror, madly dying, like her life, 3405
    Which, being cruel to the world, concluded
    Most cruel to herself. What she confess'd
    I will report, so please you: these her women
    Can trip me, if I err; who with wet cheeks
    Were present when she finish'd. 3410
  • Cornelius. First, she confess'd she never loved you, only
    Affected greatness got by you, not you:
    Married your royalty, was wife to your place;
    Abhorr'd your person. 3415
  • Cymbeline. She alone knew this;
    And, but she spoke it dying, I would not
    Believe her lips in opening it. Proceed.
  • Cornelius. Your daughter, whom she bore in hand to love
    With such integrity, she did confess 3420
    Was as a scorpion to her sight; whose life,
    But that her flight prevented it, she had
    Ta'en off by poison.
  • Cymbeline. O most delicate fiend!
    Who is 't can read a woman? Is there more? 3425
  • Cornelius. More, sir, and worse. She did confess she had
    For you a mortal mineral; which, being took,
    Should by the minute feed on life and lingering
    By inches waste you: in which time she purposed,
    By watching, weeping, tendance, kissing, to 3430
    O'ercome you with her show, and in time,
    When she had fitted you with her craft, to work
    Her son into the adoption of the crown:
    But, failing of her end by his strange absence,
    Grew shameless-desperate; open'd, in despite 3435
    Of heaven and men, her purposes; repented
    The evils she hatch'd were not effected; so
    Despairing died.
  • Cymbeline. Mine eyes
    Were not in fault, for she was beautiful;
    Mine ears, that heard her flattery; nor my heart,
    That thought her like her seeming; it had
    been vicious 3445
    To have mistrusted her: yet, O my daughter!
    That it was folly in me, thou mayst say,
    And prove it in thy feeling. Heaven mend all!
    [Enter LUCIUS, IACHIMO, the Soothsayer, and other]
    Roman Prisoners, guarded; POSTHUMUS LEONATUS 3450
    behind, and IMOGEN]
    Thou comest not, Caius, now for tribute that
    The Britons have razed out, though with the loss
    Of many a bold one; whose kinsmen have made suit
    That their good souls may be appeased with slaughter 3455
    Of you their captives, which ourself have granted:
    So think of your estate.
  • Caius Lucius. Consider, sir, the chance of war: the day
    Was yours by accident; had it gone with us,
    We should not, when the blood was cool, 3460
    have threaten'd
    Our prisoners with the sword. But since the gods
    Will have it thus, that nothing but our lives
    May be call'd ransom, let it come: sufficeth
    A Roman with a Roman's heart can suffer: 3465
    Augustus lives to think on't: and so much
    For my peculiar care. This one thing only
    I will entreat; my boy, a Briton born,
    Let him be ransom'd: never master had
    A page so kind, so duteous, diligent, 3470
    So tender over his occasions, true,
    So feat, so nurse-like: let his virtue join
    With my request, which I make bold your highness
    Cannot deny; he hath done no Briton harm,
    Though he have served a Roman: save him, sir, 3475
    And spare no blood beside.
  • Cymbeline. I have surely seen him:
    His favour is familiar to me. Boy,
    Thou hast look'd thyself into my grace,
    And art mine own. I know not why, wherefore, 3480
    To say 'live, boy:' ne'er thank thy master; live:
    And ask of Cymbeline what boon thou wilt,
    Fitting my bounty and thy state, I'll give it;
    Yea, though thou do demand a prisoner,
    The noblest ta'en. 3485
  • Imogen. I humbly thank your highness.
  • Caius Lucius. I do not bid thee beg my life, good lad;
    And yet I know thou wilt.
  • Imogen. No, no: alack,
    There's other work in hand: I see a thing 3490
    Bitter to me as death: your life, good master,
    Must shuffle for itself.
  • Caius Lucius. The boy disdains me,
    He leaves me, scorns me: briefly die their joys
    That place them on the truth of girls and boys. 3495
    Why stands he so perplex'd?
  • Cymbeline. What wouldst thou, boy?
    I love thee more and more: think more and more
    What's best to ask. Know'st him thou look'st on? speak,
    Wilt have him live? Is he thy kin? thy friend? 3500
  • Imogen. He is a Roman; no more kin to me
    Than I to your highness; who, being born your vassal,
    Am something nearer.
  • Imogen. I'll tell you, sir, in private, if you please 3505
    To give me hearing.
  • Cymbeline. Ay, with all my heart,
    And lend my best attention. What's thy name?
  • Cymbeline. Thou'rt my good youth, my page; 3510
    I'll be thy master: walk with me; speak freely.

[CYMBELINE and IMOGEN converse apart]

  • Belarius. Is not this boy revived from death?
  • Arviragus. One sand another
    Not more resembles that sweet rosy lad 3515
    Who died, and was Fidele. What think you?
  • Belarius. Peace, peace! see further; he eyes us not; forbear;
    Creatures may be alike: were 't he, I am sure
    He would have spoke to us. 3520
  • Belarius. Be silent; let's see further.
  • Pisanio. [Aside]. It is my mistress:
    Since she is living, let the time run on
    To good or bad. 3525

[CYMBELINE and IMOGEN come forward]

  • Cymbeline. Come, stand thou by our side;
    Make thy demand aloud.
    [To IACHIMO]
    Sir, step you forth; 3530
    Give answer to this boy, and do it freely;
    Or, by our greatness and the grace of it,
    Which is our honour, bitter torture shall
    Winnow the truth from falsehood. On, speak to him.
  • Imogen. My boon is, that this gentleman may render 3535
    Of whom he had this ring.
  • Cymbeline. That diamond upon your finger, say
    How came it yours?
  • Iachimo. Thou'lt torture me to leave unspoken that 3540
    Which, to be spoke, would torture thee.
  • Iachimo. I am glad to be constrain'd to utter that
    Which torments me to conceal. By villany
    I got this ring: 'twas Leonatus' jewel; 3545
    Whom thou didst banish; and—which more may
    grieve thee,
    As it doth me—a nobler sir ne'er lived
    'Twixt sky and ground. Wilt thou hear more, my lord?
  • Iachimo. That paragon, thy daughter,—
    For whom my heart drops blood, and my false spirits
    Quail to remember—Give me leave; I faint.
  • Cymbeline. My daughter! what of her? Renew thy strength:
    I had rather thou shouldst live while nature will 3555
    Than die ere I hear more: strive, man, and speak.
  • Iachimo. Upon a time,—unhappy was the clock
    That struck the hour!—it was in Rome,—accursed
    The mansion where!—'twas at a feast,—O, would
    Our viands had been poison'd, or at least 3560
    Those which I heaved to head!—the good Posthumus—
    What should I say? he was too good to be
    Where ill men were; and was the best of all
    Amongst the rarest of good ones,—sitting sadly,
    Hearing us praise our loves of Italy 3565
    For beauty that made barren the swell'd boast
    Of him that best could speak, for feature, laming
    The shrine of Venus, or straight-pight Minerva.
    Postures beyond brief nature, for condition,
    A shop of all the qualities that man 3570
    Loves woman for, besides that hook of wiving,
    Fairness which strikes the eye—
  • Cymbeline. I stand on fire:
    Come to the matter.
  • Iachimo. All too soon I shall, 3575
    Unless thou wouldst grieve quickly. This Posthumus,
    Most like a noble lord in love and one
    That had a royal lover, took his hint;
    And, not dispraising whom we praised,—therein
    He was as calm as virtue—he began 3580
    His mistress' picture; which by his tongue
    being made,
    And then a mind put in't, either our brags
    Were crack'd of kitchen-trolls, or his description
    Proved us unspeaking sots. 3585
  • Iachimo. Your daughter's chastity—there it begins.
    He spake of her, as Dian had hot dreams,
    And she alone were cold: whereat I, wretch,
    Made scruple of his praise; and wager'd with him 3590
    Pieces of gold 'gainst this which then he wore
    Upon his honour'd finger, to attain
    In suit the place of's bed and win this ring
    By hers and mine adultery. He, true knight,
    No lesser of her honour confident 3595
    Than I did truly find her, stakes this ring;
    And would so, had it been a carbuncle
    Of Phoebus' wheel, and might so safely, had it
    Been all the worth of's car. Away to Britain
    Post I in this design: well may you, sir, 3600
    Remember me at court; where I was taught
    Of your chaste daughter the wide difference
    'Twixt amorous and villanous. Being thus quench'd
    Of hope, not longing, mine Italian brain
    'Gan in your duller Britain operate 3605
    Most vilely; for my vantage, excellent:
    And, to be brief, my practise so prevail'd,
    That I return'd with simular proof enough
    To make the noble Leonatus mad,
    By wounding his belief in her renown 3610
    With tokens thus, and thus; averting notes
    Of chamber-hanging, pictures, this her bracelet,—
    O cunning, how I got it!—nay, some marks
    Of secret on her person, that he could not
    But think her bond of chastity quite crack'd, 3615
    I having ta'en the forfeit. Whereupon—
    Methinks, I see him now—
  • Posthumus Leonatus. [Advancing] Ay, so thou dost,
    Italian fiend! Ay me, most credulous fool,
    Egregious murderer, thief, any thing 3620
    That's due to all the villains past, in being,
    To come! O, give me cord, or knife, or poison,
    Some upright justicer! Thou, king, send out
    For torturers ingenious: it is I
    That all the abhorred things o' the earth amend 3625
    By being worse than they. I am Posthumus,
    That kill'd thy daughter:—villain-like, I lie—
    That caused a lesser villain than myself,
    A sacrilegious thief, to do't: the temple
    Of virtue was she; yea, and she herself. 3630
    Spit, and throw stones, cast mire upon me, set
    The dogs o' the street to bay me: every villain
    Be call'd Posthumus Leonitus; and
    Be villany less than 'twas! O Imogen!
    My queen, my life, my wife! O Imogen, 3635
    Imogen, Imogen!
  • Imogen. Peace, my lord; hear, hear—

[Striking her: she falls]

  • Pisanio. O, gentlemen, help!
    Mine and your mistress! O, my lord Posthumus!
    You ne'er kill'd Imogen til now. Help, help!
    Mine honour'd lady!
  • Cymbeline. If this be so, the gods do mean to strike me
    To death with mortal joy.
  • Pisanio. How fares thy mistress? 3650
  • Imogen. O, get thee from my sight;
    Thou gavest me poison: dangerous fellow, hence!
    Breathe not where princes are.
  • Pisanio. Lady, 3655
    The gods throw stones of sulphur on me, if
    That box I gave you was not thought by me
    A precious thing: I had it from the queen.
  • Cornelius. O gods!
    I left out one thing which the queen confess'd.
    Which must approve thee honest: 'If Pisanio
    Have,' said she, 'given his mistress that confection
    Which I gave him for cordial, she is served 3665
    As I would serve a rat.'
  • Cornelius. The queen, sir, very oft importuned me
    To temper poisons for her, still pretending
    The satisfaction of her knowledge only 3670
    In killing creatures vile, as cats and dogs,
    Of no esteem: I, dreading that her purpose
    Was of more danger, did compound for her
    A certain stuff, which, being ta'en, would cease
    The present power of life, but in short time 3675
    All offices of nature should again
    Do their due functions. Have you ta'en of it?
  • Imogen. Most like I did, for I was dead.
  • Belarius. My boys,
    There was our error. 3680
  • Imogen. Why did you throw your wedded lady from you?
    Think that you are upon a rock; and now
    Throw me again.

[Embracing him]

  • Cymbeline. How now, my flesh, my child!
    What, makest thou me a dullard in this act?
    Wilt thou not speak to me? 3690
  • Imogen. [Kneeling] Your blessing, sir.
  • Belarius. [To GUIDERIUS and ARVIRAGUS] Though you did love
    this youth, I blame ye not:
    You had a motive for't.
  • Cymbeline. My tears that fall 3695
    Prove holy water on thee! Imogen,
    Thy mother's dead.
  • Imogen. I am sorry for't, my lord.
  • Cymbeline. O, she was nought; and long of her it was
    That we meet here so strangely: but her son 3700
    Is gone, we know not how nor where.
  • Pisanio. My lord,
    Now fear is from me, I'll speak troth. Lord Cloten,
    Upon my lady's missing, came to me
    With his sword drawn; foam'd at the mouth, and swore, 3705
    If I discover'd not which way she was gone,
    It was my instant death. By accident,
    had a feigned letter of my master's
    Then in my pocket; which directed him
    To seek her on the mountains near to Milford; 3710
    Where, in a frenzy, in my master's garments,
    Which he enforced from me, away he posts
    With unchaste purpose and with oath to violate
    My lady's honour: what became of him
    I further know not. 3715
  • Guiderius. Let me end the story:
    I slew him there.
  • Cymbeline. Marry, the gods forfend!
    I would not thy good deeds should from my lips
    Pluck a bard sentence: prithee, valiant youth, 3720
    Deny't again.
  • Guiderius. A most incivil one: the wrongs he did me
    Were nothing prince-like; for he did provoke me 3725
    With language that would make me spurn the sea,
    If it could so roar to me: I cut off's head;
    And am right glad he is not standing here
    To tell this tale of mine.
  • Cymbeline. I am sorry for thee: 3730
    By thine own tongue thou art condemn'd, and must
    Endure our law: thou'rt dead.
  • Imogen. That headless man
    I thought had been my lord.
  • Cymbeline. Bind the offender, 3735
    And take him from our presence.
  • Belarius. Stay, sir king:
    This man is better than the man he slew,
    As well descended as thyself; and hath
    More of thee merited than a band of Clotens 3740
    Had ever scar for.
    [To the Guard]
    Let his arms alone;
    They were not born for bondage.
  • Cymbeline. Why, old soldier, 3745
    Wilt thou undo the worth thou art unpaid for,
    By tasting of our wrath? How of descent
    As good as we?
  • Belarius. We will die all three:
    But I will prove that two on's are as good
    As I have given out him. My sons, I must,
    For mine own part, unfold a dangerous speech,
    Though, haply, well for you. 3755
  • Belarius. Have at it then, by leave.
    Thou hadst, great king, a subject who
    Was call'd Belarius. 3760
  • Cymbeline. What of him? he is
    A banish'd traitor.
  • Belarius. He it is that hath
    Assumed this age; indeed a banish'd man;
    I know not how a traitor. 3765
  • Cymbeline. Take him hence:
    The whole world shall not save him.
  • Belarius. Not too hot:
    First pay me for the nursing of thy sons;
    And let it be confiscate all, so soon 3770
    As I have received it.
  • Belarius. I am too blunt and saucy: here's my knee:
    Ere I arise, I will prefer my sons;
    Then spare not the old father. Mighty sir, 3775
    These two young gentlemen, that call me father
    And think they are my sons, are none of mine;
    They are the issue of your loins, my liege,
    And blood of your begetting.
  • Belarius. So sure as you your father's. I, old Morgan,
    Am that Belarius whom you sometime banish'd:
    Your pleasure was my mere offence, my punishment
    Itself, and all my treason; that I suffer'd
    Was all the harm I did. These gentle princes— 3785
    For such and so they are—these twenty years
    Have I train'd up: those arts they have as I
    Could put into them; my breeding was, sir, as
    Your highness knows. Their nurse, Euriphile,
    Whom for the theft I wedded, stole these children 3790
    Upon my banishment: I moved her to't,
    Having received the punishment before,
    For that which I did then: beaten for loyalty
    Excited me to treason: their dear loss,
    The more of you 'twas felt, the more it shaped 3795
    Unto my end of stealing them. But, gracious sir,
    Here are your sons again; and I must lose
    Two of the sweet'st companions in the world.
    The benediction of these covering heavens
    Fall on their heads like dew! for they are worthy 3800
    To inlay heaven with stars.
  • Cymbeline. Thou weep'st, and speak'st.
    The service that you three have done is more
    Unlike than this thou tell'st. I lost my children:
    If these be they, I know not how to wish 3805
    A pair of worthier sons.
  • Belarius. Be pleased awhile.
    This gentleman, whom I call Polydore,
    Most worthy prince, as yours, is true Guiderius:
    This gentleman, my Cadwal, Arviragus, 3810
    Your younger princely son; he, sir, was lapp'd
    In a most curious mantle, wrought by the hand
    Of his queen mother, which for more probation
    I can with ease produce.
  • Cymbeline. Guiderius had 3815
    Upon his neck a mole, a sanguine star;
    It was a mark of wonder.
  • Belarius. This is he;
    Who hath upon him still that natural stamp:
    It was wise nature's end in the donation, 3820
    To be his evidence now.
  • Cymbeline. O, what, am I
    A mother to the birth of three? Ne'er mother
    Rejoiced deliverance more. Blest pray you be,
    That, after this strange starting from your orbs, 3825
    may reign in them now! O Imogen,
    Thou hast lost by this a kingdom.
  • Imogen. No, my lord;
    I have got two worlds by 't. O my gentle brothers,
    Have we thus met? O, never say hereafter 3830
    But I am truest speaker you call'd me brother,
    When I was but your sister; I you brothers,
    When ye were so indeed.
  • Guiderius. And at first meeting loved;
    Continued so, until we thought he died.
  • Cornelius. By the queen's dram she swallow'd.
  • Cymbeline. O rare instinct!
    When shall I hear all through? This fierce 3840
    Hath to it circumstantial branches, which
    Distinction should be rich in. Where? how lived You?
    And when came you to serve our Roman captive?
    How parted with your brothers? how first met them? 3845
    Why fled you from the court? and whither? These,
    And your three motives to the battle, with
    I know not how much more, should be demanded;
    And all the other by-dependencies,
    From chance to chance: but nor the time nor place 3850
    Will serve our long inter'gatories. See,
    Posthumus anchors upon Imogen,
    And she, like harmless lightning, throws her eye
    On him, her brother, me, her master, hitting
    Each object with a joy: the counterchange 3855
    Is severally in all. Let's quit this ground,
    And smoke the temple with our sacrifices.
    Thou art my brother; so we'll hold thee ever.
  • Imogen. You are my father too, and did relieve me, 3860
    To see this gracious season.
  • Cymbeline. All o'erjoy'd,
    Save these in bonds: let them be joyful too,
    For they shall taste our comfort.
  • Imogen. My good master, 3865
    I will yet do you service.
  • Cymbeline. The forlorn soldier, that so nobly fought,
    He would have well becomed this place, and graced
    The thankings of a king. 3870
  • Posthumus Leonatus. I am, sir,
    The soldier that did company these three
    In poor beseeming; 'twas a fitment for
    The purpose I then follow'd. That I was he,
    Speak, Iachimo: I had you down and might 3875
    Have made you finish.
  • Iachimo. [Kneeling] I am down again:
    But now my heavy conscience sinks my knee,
    As then your force did. Take that life, beseech you,
    Which I so often owe: but your ring first; 3880
    And here the bracelet of the truest princess
    That ever swore her faith.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Kneel not to me:
    The power that I have on you is, to spare you;
    The malice towards you to forgive you: live, 3885
    And deal with others better.
  • Cymbeline. Nobly doom'd!
    We'll learn our freeness of a son-in-law;
    Pardon's the word to all.
  • Arviragus. You holp us, sir, 3890
    As you did mean indeed to be our brother;
    Joy'd are we that you are.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Your servant, princes. Good my lord of Rome,
    Call forth your soothsayer: as I slept, methought
    Great Jupiter, upon his eagle back'd, 3895
    Appear'd to me, with other spritely shows
    Of mine own kindred: when I waked, I found
    This label on my bosom; whose containing
    Is so from sense in hardness, that I can
    Make no collection of it: let him show 3900
    His skill in the construction.
  • Soothsayer. [Reads] 'When as a lion's whelp shall, to himself 3905
    unknown, without seeking find, and be embraced by a
    piece of tender air; and when from a stately cedar
    shall be lopped branches, which, being dead many
    years, shall after revive, be jointed to the old
    stock, and freshly grow; then shall Posthumus end 3910
    his miseries, Britain be fortunate and flourish in
    peace and plenty.'
    Thou, Leonatus, art the lion's whelp;
    The fit and apt construction of thy name,
    Being Leonatus, doth import so much. 3915
    The piece of tender air, thy virtuous daughter,
    Which we call 'mollis aer;' and 'mollis aer'
    We term it 'mulier:' which 'mulier' I divine
    Is this most constant wife; who, even now, 3920
    Answering the letter of the oracle,
    Unknown to you, unsought, were clipp'd about
    With this most tender air.
  • Soothsayer. The lofty cedar, royal Cymbeline, 3925
    Personates thee: and thy lopp'd branches point
    Thy two sons forth; who, by Belarius stol'n,
    For many years thought dead, are now revived,
    To the majestic cedar join'd, whose issue
    Promises Britain peace and plenty. 3930
  • Cymbeline. Well
    My peace we will begin. And, Caius Lucius,
    Although the victor, we submit to Caesar,
    And to the Roman empire; promising
    To pay our wonted tribute, from the which 3935
    We were dissuaded by our wicked queen;
    Whom heavens, in justice, both on her and hers,
    Have laid most heavy hand.
  • Soothsayer. The fingers of the powers above do tune
    The harmony of this peace. The vision 3940
    Which I made known to Lucius, ere the stroke
    Of this yet scarce-cold battle, at this instant
    Is full accomplish'd; for the Roman eagle,
    From south to west on wing soaring aloft,
    Lessen'd herself, and in the beams o' the sun 3945
    So vanish'd: which foreshow'd our princely eagle,
    The imperial Caesar, should again unite
    His favour with the radiant Cymbeline,
    Which shines here in the west.
  • Cymbeline. Laud we the gods; 3950
    And let our crooked smokes climb to their nostrils
    From our blest altars. Publish we this peace
    To all our subjects. Set we forward: let
    A Roman and a British ensign wave
    Friendly together: so through Lud's-town march: 3955
    And in the temple of great Jupiter
    Our peace we'll ratify; seal it with feasts.
    Set on there! Never was a war did cease,
    Ere bloody hands were wash'd, with such a peace.